Sunday, December 18, 2011

Too many questions for January

By: The Editorial Board
Published: December 04, 2011

The Virginia Municipal League and Virginia Farm Bureau are joining the voices that want the state to move slowly on uranium mining.

"I believe the sense of our members is that they want to have more time for the legislature and the citizens to fully evaluate that study," Farm Bureau’s Andrew W. Smith told The Associated Press.

One of the uranium mining studies expected this month came out this week, and its results underscore the importance of not only studying uranium mining in Virginia, but taking time to fully understand each study’s results.

"The Socioeconomic Impact of Uranium Mining and Milling in the Chatham Labor Shed, Virginia" by Chmura Economics & Analytics lays out four scenarios for how the uranium industry might benefit the Dan River Region’s economy — and harm community health, the environment, property values and how outsiders view this community.

But those numbers aren’t carved in the stone underneath Coles Hill.

The uranium mining industry claims to have put its worst mistakes in the past. But even if we rely on today’s more modern uranium mining and milling methods — and the state and federal government regulations that would oversee them — can we be sure that the community will be kept safe?

"Because the environmental and health impact of the uranium mine and mill can take decades to fully understand, it is fair to stay that the ability of the current regulations to fully and comprehensively protect the environment and public health for the long-term remains an open question," the Chmura report states.

We have only one shot to get this right. Yes, we need jobs, industry and new investment. No, it can’t afford to look at this issue solely with dollars signs in our eyes.

What we’ve heard from Chmura is a good starting point for the debate, not the final word on what this project could mean to our community.

A growing number of voices around Virginia are asking that everyone concerned about uranium mining have a year — not a month — to digest all the studies that are coming out before the General Assembly takes action. Considering what’s at stake, that’s the least that should happen right now.